(CNN) - Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, who has announced no plans to retire, suggested that a fellow Democrat was out of line for asserting interest in Lautenberg's seat.
And on Tuesday, he suggested he knew just how to deal with Newark Mayor Cory Booker.
"I have four children, I love each one of them. I can't tell you that one of them wasn't occasionally disrespectful, so I gave them a spanking and everything was OK," Lautenberg told reporters.
It is Lautenberg's first comment on Booker's candidacy since Lautenberg's spokesman, Caley Gray, said earlier this month a report that "Senator Lautenberg has decided to retire is simply not true." Lautenberg's aides have lashed out against the rising political star, with one telling Politico that Booker's decision to challenge an incumbent Democrat rather than an incumbent Republican, such as Gov. Chris Christie, was "shameful."
But Lautenberg has not said whether he would run for a sixth term when his current term expires in 2014. He said Tuesday that he was focused on work and, "I'm not thinking about the politics right now."
He has been absent from the Senate for weeks and missed key votes. On Tuesday, he said his cold "turned into the flu, turned into a severe case of bronchitis with fluid in the chest."
He said he is fine now, and as for the cane he was walking with: "I don't need this but it gives me some cache."
Earlier this month Booker registered the "Cory Booker for Senate" committee with the Federal Election Commission, which allows him to raise money for his campaign for the seat.
He indicated he was interested in running in a December op-ed, after telling CNN's Piers Morgan in response to a question about a Senate bid, "my focus right now is trying to figure out what that next step will be that is in accordance with my values. Life is about purpose, not position."
A recent Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll showed 42% of Democrats and those leaning Democratic would support Booker and 20% would favor Lautenberg.
Lautenberg, just shy of 89, said Booker is "entitled to do it," referring to a run for the Senate seat.